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Winter wonderland “4 Vallées” – snow sports paradise in Valais

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The “4 Vallées» (4 Valleys) tourist destination in the Swiss canton of Valais ranks among Europe’s largest ski areas offering limitless snow sport possibilities. I just had to see it once again.

The 4 Vallées ski region

The 4 Vallées ski region in Valais with the Cleuson Dam in the distance

Verbier, Nendaz, Veysonnaz, and Thyon make up the 4 Vallées tourism region. All four valleys are linked by a gigantic network of 92 ways to get your mountain high: T-bar lifts, chairlifts, aerial trams, gondola and pendulum lifts.

For winter sports enthusiasts, the snow-guaranteed 4 Vallées snow area is a paradise! You can schuss down more than 250 miles of ski-runs.

It’s not just for the pros; even beginners will find ideal conditions on the versatile network of runs. At Siviez or Haute Nendaz, you can’t help but smile when you see the little ones trying their first downhill glide with a massive backward lean ;-)

But the area also has plenty to offer for snowshoe and ski touring, not to speak of walking in a winter wonderland: more than 60 miles of marked winter trails for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and hiking makes the winter sports aficionado’s and nature lover’s heart beat faster.

Today, we won’t make it over all 60 miles, but still cover quite a few…

Snowhoe trail near Siviez

Snowshoer on the trail near Siviez heading toward Cleuson Dam

High alpine Mont Fort mountain range

At almost 11,000 feet, Mont Fort mountain is the winter sports area’s tallest peak.

Whether you come from fashionable Verbier with its W Designhotel (read our travel blog post here in a new window), from the Nendaz and Veysonaz family vacation spots  or even from the less well-known villages of La Tzuoumaz and Thyon — from each of these places you are lofted via modern lift facilities from peak to peak all the way to magical Mont Fort.

Haute-Nendaz with Dent Favre and Grand Muveran

Wintry Haute-Nendaz with Dent de Morcles, Dent Favre and Grand Muveran peaks in the distance

Mont-Fort cable car

Cable car up Mont Fort.
The upper piste segment is extremely steep!

360o panorama from Mont Fort

Mont Fort panorama at 11,000 feet above sea level, with the Matterhorn to left of the picture’s center

The trip to Mont Fort is worthwhile, with or without skis. The 360 degree panorama is one of a kind! The view from here takes in the Matterhorn, Grand Combin, and Mont Blanc!

“Balade Panoramique” winter hiking trail

During our stay at the Hôtel Nendaz 4 Vallées we set out on the winter hiking trail named “Balade Panoramique” from Tracouet to Plan du Fou. Just the names alone sounds enticing and are sure to please Walter…

But before we set out on our walk, we first let ourselves be transported by gondola car from Nendaz to airier heights, namely to Tracouet at 7,200 feet above sea level.

From there, the well-marked and panoramic high altitude leads to Les Fontaines past more than 250 larch trees that range in age from 300 to 800 years!

Winter hike to Plan du Fou

A frigid early-morning winter hike to Plan du Fou

 

From Les Fontaines we take the gondola up to Plan du Fou. Here, too, at nearly 8,000 feet, the view is breathtaking.

Our next gondola ride takes us to the other side of the valley toward Siviez.

Plan du Fou gondola

From top of Plan du Fou by gondola to Siviez

Plan du fou 4 Vallées

But, first I need to photograph the panorama …

Plan du Fou 4 Vallées

… before it’s time for that selfie with Walter.

 

Facts about the “Balade Panoramique” winter hiking trail
Hiking time: 1 h 20 m.
Distance covered: 3.1 miles
Climb: 820′
Descent: 820′
Difficulty: Easy

From Siviez, you can take the postal bus back to Nendaz. But, we hadn’t got our fill yet of the Valais “winter wonderland” — so, we indulged in one more winter walk, this one to the Cleuson Dam.

Winter hiking trail to Cleuson Dam

Just outside Siviez, we crossed a little bridge and took the Route du Barrage that passes right under the valley station of the Combatseline chairlift. The trail follows the course of Printse creek.

Winter hike by Siviez

A winter’s day hike by Siviez

Snow crystals

Snow crystals and light reflections on a stream outside Siviez

Winter hike to Cleuson Dam

Hiking through snow toward Cleuson Dam

The snow-covered mountain landscape exerts a fairytale effect that even the nearly 300-foot high wall of the Cleuson Dam visible from quite a distance does little to lessen. This route loops back to Siviez from here.

Winter hike in Siviez 4 Vallées

Taking the loop trail back to Siviez

Facts about the Cleuson winter hiking trail
Hiking time: 1 h
Distance covered: 2.1 miles
Ascent: 138′
Descent: 427′
Difficulty: Easy

 

By now it is lunchtime and Walter falls into his legendary hunger hole. I just manage to save him with the last of my energy and a vegan energy bar (my goodness!) into the Restaurant Les Bergers. That was in lieu of the Pizzeria Chez Odette next door because all tables in the sun were already taken there.

And then it just so happens that the revitalizing hamburger with pommes frites was sold out! My nerves…

So, we fly blind and order the galettes de Sarrasin. It’s the most plentiful item on the menu. Could there be a reason?

And indeed: under a mountain of arugula hides a fine crust made of cheese? or could it be egg?  Help, anyone, from the other side of the Swiss Franco-German cultural divide?

Galettes de Sarrasin

Galettes de Sarrasin of the “Lolita” type

The tourist office, by the way, offers very comprehensive maps and information for all winter activities, not least for the snowshoe tours and the winter hiking trails.

You can also find out about the various winter hiking routes on the 4 Vallées website (opens in a new window).

4 Vallées, a mecca for paragliders

The 4 Vallées also appears to be a paradise for paragliders. Already on Mont Fort you see the sky dotted with many of the colorful “wings”.

On Plan du Fou also, the paragliders line up as one after the other lifts off. The ratrac snow plow has made runways in the deep snow just for them.

Paraglider pilots on the Plan du Fou

Paraglider pilots on the Plan du Fou

4 Vallées

Just a bit more wind, and off we go…

Paraglider 4 Vallées

Take-off! This acrobatic paraglider weighs less than a pounds

We stayed this time in the Hotel Nendaz 4 Vallées & Spa. Here’s our review in German in a new window.

Hotel Nendaz 4 Vallées & Spa

Hotel Nendaz 4 Vallées & Spa

That’s because during our last visit to the region we stayed at the W Verbier Designhotel. It was also a good choice.

And, like last time, this time, too, we traveled here in comfort by train.  This savvy lady lets the train take the strain ;-)

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About Author

Katja is travelmemo.com’s destination research and booking expert. She always has the upper hand on itineraries and travel details. When not on the road Katja is a corporate communications and events manager.

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